On Tuesday, Sept. 4, Catholic monks at the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Sept-Douleurs, near Jerusalem, noticed that the front door to their monastery was on fire. Vandals had set the door alight and sprayed Hebrew words on its walls included “Migron,” and “Jesus is a monkey.”

Israeli government officials condemned the incident and are investigating whether the perpetrators were extremist Jewish settlers retaliating for the recent evacuation of an illegal settlement outpost in the West Bank called Migron.

Three-hundred Israeli settlers were evicted from Migron last week because it had been built illegally on privately-owned Palestinian land.

In recent years, Israeli settlers have carried out “price tag” attacks against Palestinian targets in retaliation for the removal of settlement outposts by the Israeli government.

Three months ago, graffiti such as “death to Arabs” and “Ulpana outpost,” were found at the Jewish-Arab town of Neve Shalom. Damage was done to several cars parked on the town’s roads.

In February, similar graffiti was found sprayed on the walls of a Greek and a Baptist churches in Jerusalem. The graffiti included phrases such as “Jesus is dead,” “Death to Christians,” and “price tag.”

The U.S. State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2011 ― which profiles terrorist activities around the world ― identifies three “price tag” incidents in 2011: vandalism of the Muslim Mamilla Cemetery in Jerusalem, an arson attack on a Jerusalem mosque in December, and another arson attack on a mosque in the village of Burqa in December.

The report also states that 10 mosques in the Palestinian Territories were set on fire or vandalized last year, and that these attacks are alleged to have been perpetrated by settlers.

Catholic Church leaders in Jerusalem issued the following statement in response to the vandalism of the Abbaye de Notre-Dame de Sept-Douleurs:


Declaration of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land

Why are Christians again the target?

The Christian community awoke this morning, Tuesday, September 4, 2012, to discover with horror that once again it is the target of forces of hatred within Israeli society.  In the early hours of the morning, the door of the Cistercian (Trappist) monastery in Latroun was burned and anti-Christian graffiti was sprayed on the walls.

The monks of Latroun have dedicated their lives to prayer and hard work.  The monastery is visited by hundreds of Jewish Israelis each week and they are received with love and warmth by the monks.  A number of the monks have learned Hebrew and promote mutual understanding and reconciliation between Jews and Christians, according to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Sadly, what happened in Latroun is only another in a long series of attacks against Christians and their places of worship.  What is going on in Israeli society today that permits Christians to be scapegoat and targeted by these acts of violence?  Those who sprayed their hateful slogans, expressed their anger at the dismantlement of the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.  But why do they vent this anger against Christians and Christian places of worship?  What kind of “teaching of contempt” for Christians is being communicated in their schools and in their homes? And why are the culprits not found and brought to justice?

This morning, the Christians in Israel are asking many questions as they grieve and seek consolation and assurances.  The time has come for the authorities to act to put an end to this senseless violence and to ensure a “teaching of respect” in schools for all those who call this land home.

“Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.”
(Psalm 34:12-14)

Kelly Baker is a Presbyterian graduate student at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver pursuing an MA in Social Change. She is currently living in Beit Sahour, Palestine, completing an internship required for her degree program.